My cartoons are always drawn by hand onto 11″ x 14″ Strathmore Bristol smooth surface paper. I have an array of stencils for various drawing purposes or whenever I need a handy straight edge and my trusty rulers are too bulky. Many cartoonists use brushes for applying ink, but I’ve always relied on art pens and markers. The drawing board and chair have been constant companions for much of my career.

Penciling is easily my favorite part of the whole process. Here I have the freedom to draw as I please, as mistakes are simply erased (or even ignored). Once it’s time to put down the ink, I must go much slower and more carefully. Mistakes and smudges, which are many, are whited out.

It’s important for me to wait a short while before breaking out the eraser, because if all of the ink is not yet dried, things can get ugly fast! Sometimes the eraser will cause ink to fade in spots, but I can easily take care of that with my pen. Once everything is done, I sign my initials to a convenient spot, making the whole thing official.

Here’s where Candace ‘n’ Company goes from low tech to high tech. I start out by scanning the cartoon, turning it into two PNG files. My comics are always drawn at 13″ wide (4″ tall for dailies and 6.25″ tall for Sundays), but the scanner maxes out at 11″ wide. So here’s where creativity comes in handy. I scan each cartoon in two parts. It’s easiest for me if I leave the scanner lid open while doing this, so I always wait until nighttime to prevent outside light from negatively affecting the image. It reminds me of old fashioned dark rooms people use for developing analog photographs!

Using Photoshop Elements on my P.C., I take the two halves of my cartoon and put them together onto a blank piece of digital canvas. It takes a few minutes, as I want to make sure the pieces fit as closely together as possible without any overlapping artwork (or gaps). After this, I trim away almost all of the blank white space surrounding my strip and use a drawing tablet and stylus to clear away any ink smudges that might’ve escaped my notice at the drawing board. Annoying white specs often appear in black areas, and those, too, need to be taken care of. Once this is all done, I create a PNG file of the new image.

After “priming” the strip, as I like to call it, it’s time to put down the colors. I create a blank white background behind the line art, and do virtually all of my coloring onto this bottom layer. Afterwards, I use slightly darker and lighter versions of colors I’d previously used over areas for shading and highlighting effects. Obviously, white areas cannot be highlighted and light gray is used for shading. I like to leave solid black areas completely black, without any highlights. This is generally because I prefer not to tamper with my original line art, created at the drawing board. Just like in Step 7, I finish up by creating a PNG file of what I’ve got. So the end result is three versions of the same cartoon: The original hand drawn art, a black-and-white PNG file and a colored PNG file. The latter two can be used as copy masters whenever I am compelled to produce JPEG images.

Some of my cartoons (a minority) can receive a few extra tweaks. For example, if there is a clean gap between panels at or very near the center of the comic strip, I can effectively cut my cartoon in half and stack it in two layers (up to four with some Sunday cartoons). This makes for a larger cartoon that can be completely read onscreen by simply scrolling down.

Even fewer cartoons are drawn sideways, and, with a couple clicks of a mouse, can be rotated 90 degrees for a more appealing look.

And that’s how it’s done!